Step 1: Set Goals

When we get a good idea, it is natural to jump right in and start working.  In recent weeks, several people have had so much enthusiasm about their project that they want to dive right in without any real preparation or fully formed vision of what they want.  To address this, here is a three part blog series on steps to take before you start.  This week’s blog is dedicated to Goals – or defining what you want to accomplish.  Part 2 will be defining your target audience and we will discuss personas.  Finally, part 3 will define what success will look like by creating a screenplay.

SMART Goals?

lighted-path1But first things first.  What are your goals for the project?  Now, many will tell you that you have to define SMART goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.  I am going to disagree.  While SMART goals are great, I don’t think you need that much structure for every project.  There is a saying attributed to Voltaire which says “Perfection is the enemy of the good.”  I feel like this applies to goals too.  You can spend so much time trying to define metrics that are measurable and time-bound that you delay the project or miss a critical window.

Touchstone Goals

I prefer goals that serve as a touchstone.  What does that mean?  If you define the goals of your project in a meaningful way, you can use them to shape your future actions.  The goals can serve as the guiding light to make sure that you do not stray from your desired path.  I recently worked on a Kanban implementation for Agile and our goals were as follows:

  • Increase Visibility
  • Add a measure of predictability to the workflow
  • Increase Collaboration
  • Provide a mechanism for sharing the workload

You can see that none of these goals contained the SMART parameters, yet they were meaningful for the project and provided the touchstone that we needed.  As we were discussing columns to add to the Kanban board, we asked ‘would that help increase visibility?’  If the answer was no, we could reject the suggestion.  These un-SMART goals provided guidance and boundaries for the project that helped us to control scope and craft a solution.

Prioritizing Goals

If you are struggling with the Goal Setting task, here is an exercise that might help.  Have team members or participants all write down individual goals on a post-it note, note card, whiteboard, etc.  Post each suggestion with no judgment or priority.  After every idea is on the board, give each participant three small stickers.  These could be small post-its or colored dots or even labels from the printer.  Each person can ‘vote’ with their three stickers on the most important goals.  They can put all three stickers on a single goal, if they are so inclined, or they can vote for three different goals.  When the exercise is completed, the goal with the most stickers is the top priority.  Based on the sticker allocation, you can decide how many goals you need as there might be a natural break in the number of stickers that are posted.  And there is nothing magical about the number three – each person can vote five times or eight – whatever number you choose though I would suggest more than one.

Before you dive into your next project or great idea, take a moment to level-set on the goals.  It can be a formal process with SMART goals or it can be informal, touchstone-type goals.  Either way, the exercise will illuminate your path when the project starts to get murky.  Stay tuned for future blogs about defining personas (your target market)  and defining what success looks like in the end.



One Response to Step 1: Set Goals

  1. […] to take before you dive into that new project or idea that you are so excited about.  Those were: Step 1 – Set your Goals and Step 2 – Define your target audience, or personas.  Now it is time for the final step […]

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